Far Afield

Far Afield

by Susanna Kaysen
     
 

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Jonathan Brand, a graduate student in anthropology, has decided to do his fieldwork in the remote Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic.  But, despite his Harvard training, he can barely understand, let alone "study," the culture he encounters.  From his struggles with the local cuisine to his affair with the Danish woman the locals want

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Overview

Jonathan Brand, a graduate student in anthropology, has decided to do his fieldwork in the remote Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic.  But, despite his Harvard training, he can barely understand, let alone "study," the culture he encounters.  From his struggles with the local cuisine to his affair with the Danish woman the locals want him to marry, Jonathan is both repelled by and drawn into the Faroese way of life. Wry and insightful, Far Afield reveals reveals Susanna Kaysen's gifts of imagination, satire, and compassion.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Brilliant . . . a novel distinguished for [its] intelligence, psychological insight, and splendid writing." —The Atlantic

"Enthralling . . . at times supernaturally beautiful.  A gritty, intellectual, emotionally complex and astute account of an outsider succumbing to the hidden charms of a remote and peculiar island community." —Cleveland Plain Dealer

"Kaysen softly moves the story forward, chronicling personal change with deft touches of insight and with detail of island life so rich that it seems she had spent a year there herself." —Chicago Sun-Times

"Witty, intelligent. . . . An inspired novel about the human condition and the nature of civilization.  One of the best novels . . . in some time." —Boston Magazine

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A compulsively readable novel of enormous charm by the author of Asa, As I Knew Him , this stakes out the Faroe Islands, an isolated, autonomous Danish territory in the North Atlantic that Harvard anthropology graduate student Jonathan Brand has ``discovered'' for his course fieldwork. The product of repressed academic parents and of a reductionist scholarly discipline that ``made much of such simplicities as who traded beans or feathers with what cousin or whether dinner was cooked in one pot or two,'' Jonathan sets out to sniff, taste and touch his way to a doctoral thesis from the comfortable remove of an impartial observer. But resisting documentation and analysis, the land of midnight sun and winter ``drear,'' and its deceptively impassive and unevolved denizens, insinuate themselves into the American's underemotive heart. Overeducated and as insular as any of his ``primitive'' subjects, Jonathan is a narrator who manages to be both hilarious and poignant in his bafflement and neurosis. We watch him empty an obstructed septic tank of wheelbarrowfuls of its repulsive contents; nibble tentatively at fish and meat prepared native-style--months old and rotten; negotiate the seduction of a woman whom he barely fathoms and whom everyone assumes will become his bride; clash with otherworldly shepherds, specters who apparently try to wrest sheep away from Jonathan's grip; and play reluctant host to another American anthropology grad student encroaching on his turf. As they flirt with NATO and the CIA, ritually kill whales and cats, enhance their natural moroseness with liquor acquired through payment of their taxes, and open their homes to Jonathan with abundant hospitality, the Faroese are nuanced keepers of a culture not wholly unlike our own. (Oct.)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780679753766
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
05/19/1994
Series:
Vintage Contemporaries Series
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
1,531,480
Product dimensions:
5.19(w) x 7.98(h) x 0.75(d)

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Meet the Author

Susanna Kaysen is also the author of Girl, Interrupted and Asa, As I Knew Him. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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